Going to Zimbabwe is always a privilege. I feel blessed to have friends there and to be of some use there, and this time was especially encouraged by the progress I saw being made.
The most immediately noticeable contrast from my previous visits was the impact of dollarization. The results of working in a strong currency was a pithy lesson in economics. Ever since I first visited Zim in 2004 goods have been scarce and obtaining them always involved ‘making a plan’. This was particularly obvious with fuel, which could only be obtained by circuitous routes; it was odd this time to drive onto a fuel station forecourt and be able to just buy the stuff. So at a personal level I feel very relieved for my friends who have had the immense pressure of having to make a plan removed by the adoption of hard currencies.
Not that the economy is in great shape mind you! And goods are expensive. Petrol is about half to two-thirds what it costs in the UK, but most food and household goods seemed to be at very similar prices to the UK, and as incomes in Zim are much lower you can go do the math.
As well as economic improvements it was tremendously encouraging to see the progress the churches are making. New Creation church seems to be in rude good health. It is maturing rapidly, with what was pretty much a bunch of students a few years back now a more age-diverse congregation, and with many people getting married and having babies. This growing maturity was also reflected spiritually, and the church is clearly flourishing under the excellent leadership of Mbonisi (Bones) Malaba and his team. Mbonisi will be preaching at Gateway on April 25th, which will be great!
The Easter Camp was a great occasion. Pulling off an event like that in a place like Zim is not without its challenges, but the guys did so well. I have always loved preaching here, and this occasion was no exception. The uninhibited feedback and enthusiasm of the congregation makes it much easier for the preacher to in turn feel real freedom.
Ebenezer is going great guns too, with significant improvements since my last visit. More ground has been cleared, irrigation established, and more crops being grown. The team are planning for a big increase in the number of apprentices in the next intake. And among the current group of graduates one or two really stood out as potential leaders. Well done Stephen & Molly Manhanga and team!
Stephen is also doing a fantastic job of establishing Crossroads Church. The team I brought over last time helped clear some ground for a church building, and the site is now much more developed, with a marquee for meetings, a toilet block, and some farming all in place. Plans are now being put together for a more permanent structure to be built for the church to meet in.
Sam & Marlene Poe, from Seattle, are currently spending some time at Crossroads and New Creation. Sam is pioneering Chronological Bible Storying in the rural communities, which is a way for those who are not literate, or do not learn primarily through literate forms, to grasp the story of the Bible. When I arrived Sam was leading a prophetic training school for guys from across Zim, along with Julian Adams. Being able to spend time with Julian and Sam was a great added bonus of this trip.
And then a final highlight was Mbonisi & Tash taking me to the Great Zimbabwe ruins yesterday. In my many trips to Zim I have never done any of the tourist trail, not even a trip to Victoria Falls, so it was such a treat for them to announce we would visit the ruins. It was a long drive, but worth it, as Great Zimbabwe is a very remarkable place – a flowering of African culture that resulted in the construction of an amazing stone city, long before Europeans ever penetrated the interior of Africa. There was one rather poignant moment though that rather summed up the current Zimbabwean experience – Bones wanted to linger in the museum to read the information boards on the exhibits there, but was told by our guide to be quick because ‘the small drop of fuel in the generator will soon run out’. Great Zimbabwe – as important for African culture as Stonehenge or Westminster Abbey are for British, but not enough power to run the lights for more than a few minutes.
Nigel Ring has also blogged on his recent trip to Zimbabwe, so you may wish to check that out. Or look up the Ebenezer blog to get an insight on the work there.
Some of the most remarkable people I have ever met are Zimbabwean. They are real heroes. Please pray for them, and their beautiful nation.
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